Sunday Polls

No sooner have I dismissed October’s ICM poll that showed a 10 point Conservative lead as an obvious outlier (and therefore interpreted their Guardian poll this month as a return to the norm), suddenly another poll appears with a lead of the same sort of size. An ICM poll in tomorrow’s News of the World puts voting intention at CON 39%, LAB 30%, LDEM 20%.

UPDATE: The poll also included an unusual best Prime Minister question. The results were Brown 29%, Cameron 25%, Campbell 5%. Unusually though John Reid was alos included in the question, and was chosen by 8% of people. I also missed last night quite how cretinous the News of the World’s reporting was. The headline was “Nightmare for Cam” – yep, the second largest lead for the Conservatives in an ICM poll since 1992 is “a nightmare” :)

The monthly YouGov poll for the Telegraph, a week later than usual, has the topline voting intentions of CON 37%(-2), LAB 32%(nc), LDEM 16%(nc), suggesting a drop in Conservative support. There has been a perception in recent weeks that the polls are showing a fall in Conservative support, one that hasn’t until now seemed to be bourne out by the facts – MORI and Populus’s last polls showed their lead increasing, ICM’s was an obvious return from a outlier the previous month and in line with the sort of Conservative leads they’ve been showing prior to conference, Communicate don’t yet have the recent track record to judge how their polls compare to other methodologies. This poll is different, and certainly shows a drop in Tory support, though it is just one poll and is within the margin of error, so we’ll have to see if a similar trend shows up in Populus’s poll next week.

The 15% score for others is the highest that YouGov have recorded since the time around the local elections when the BNP’s support was producing a high share for “others”. In this case the breakdown of support for the others is SNP/PC 4%, UKIP 3%, BNP 3%, Green 3%, Respect 1% (and “other others” 1%). The only noticable increase is for the SNP/PC, up from 2% last month. While this does tie in with recent polls of Scottish voting intention showing a SNP lead, I have severe doubts whether regional cross breaks on GB opinion polls are robust enough to draw any conclusions from.

Asked who would make the best Prime Minister Tony Blair has regained his lead over David Cameron for the first time since the summer. 28% would prefer Blair compared to only 23% for Cameron. Menzies Campbell still trails on 6%, and notably, only 27% of Liberal Democrat voters think he’d make the best Prime Minister. David Cameron’s own net approval ratings are down from +14 in the last Telegraph poll to +9 this month.

On the forced choice question of whether people would, if forced, choose a Conservative government lead by David Cameron or a Labour government led by Gordon Brown, the Conservative lead has also fallen, down from 13 points last month to 9 points this month. Liberal Democrat respondents’ answers were split almost exactly down the middle. The only good news for the Conservatives on the standard tracker questions is that Labour have fallen slightly behind them on which party is more likely to run the economy well.

YouGov then asked people a series of questions about David Cameron’s first year as leader of the Conservative party. 45% of respondents thought Cameron was moving the party in the right direction. This predictably included 71% of Tory respondents, but it was not a wholly partisan response. Lib Dem voters, for example, largely approved of Cameron’s direction (51% to 15% disapproving). 11% of current Conservative voters said they thought Cameron was going in the wrong direction. A majority (52%) of people also though that Cameron had improved the image of the Conservative party – again, this was largely Tory voters, 78% of whom agreed, but 36% of Labour voters and 59% of Lib Dem voters agreed.

YouGov then asked about what Labour seem to have identifed as a possible attack upon Cameron, they asked whether, in his attempt to be seen as soft and gentle, the Conservative party are now not tough enough to take on national security and terrorism. There certainly seems to be some salience to the argument – while 40% of voters and 60% of Tory voters rejected the argument, 28% said that yes, the Conservatives had become too soft, including 24% of current Tory voters. On the back of Tony Blair’s PMQs jibe, YouGov asked how people saw Cameron – only 4% saw him as a heavyweight, 40% said a middleweight, 40% said a lightweight or no weight at all.

Respondents were also unconvinced about Cameron’s concentration upon the environment. While more people thought it was likely to improve their chances of winning the election than thought it would damage them, only 34% thought it was the right thing to do, 48% thought it was a mistake and the party should instead be focusing on crime, taxation and immigration. 55% of current Tory voters thought it was a mistake.

Finally, YouGov whether Cameron was right to be cautious about releasing detailled policies. 38% said yes, 38% said no, although respondents answered largely along partisan lines, with 65% of Tories saying Cameron was right and 53% of Labour voters saying he was wrong.

Overall the poll suggests that people do think that Cameron has turned the party and around and improved its image…but the concentration on the environment and “cuddly” topics seems to be risking creating an image of weakness. A fortnight ago Bruce Anderson in the Independent suggested that the Conservatives were about to move to “phase two” of their strategy, and start producing some harder-edged policies. This polls suggests that it might be what they need if Labour’s attacks on them being too soft and the perception that they are concentrating on the wrong issues are not going to start damaging thier support.